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As the weeks pass, Dizzy starts to feel things she's never felt before. She meets Finn, who gives her her first kiss-and Mouse, who's like the little brother she never had. This life is so different from the one back at home. Which life is the right one for Dizzy? Not since Sharon Creech has such a warm, fresh, wonderful voice emerged for this age group. Viking is proud to welcome the talented voice of Cathy Cassidy.
After an eight-year absence, Dizzy's "New Age traveler" mother suddenly shows up on her twelfth birthday and whisks her away to a series of festivals throughout Scotland in her rattletrap van.
'Hey, Dizzy! Wake up, birthday girl!"
Dad brings me breakfast in bed on my birthday, every year. And every year, I hide under the covers and pretend I haven't been lying awake, thinking about Mum. I yawn and stretch and wipe imaginary sleep from my eyes.
The room floods with light and Dad lowers a tray laden with birthday breakfast onto the quilt. Each year, it's the same -- my favorite, cheese on toast, but with a special birthday twist. Dad layers yellow cheese over the bread, then shapes a number out of orange cheese and puts it on top to melt under the grill. This year, there are two slices of toast, spelling out the fact that I'm twelve. It smells fantastic.
Dad sits down on the edge of the bed. He's skinny and mop-haired, wearing striped pajamas and an ancient T-shirt.
"Happy birthday, Dizzy." He grins, giving me a hug.
No more birthday blues. I bite into the toast, happy.
There's a flower in a jam jar on the tray, and a banana milkshake, and a small, familiar package wrapped in blue paper. These days, I'd rather have apple juice or Coke than banana milkshake, but it was my favorite once. I tear off the blue paper and there's another old favorite, a tube of Smarties candy.
Everything is just the way it was the first time Dad made me a birthday breakfast, when I was five, the first birthday after Mum left. I like it like that. It's a tradition.
We scarf down the Smarties and Dad brings in my presents, a couple of small packages and something huge and guitar-shaped tied up with newspaper and sticky tape. I rip off the paper to uncover the glossy curves, wood the color of honey and chocolate.
"Dad, it's gorgeous!" I squeal. I strum out 'Happy Birthday,' slightly out of tune. My other presents are the plum suede sneakers I admired in town last week and a cool makeup bag stuffed with bottles of glittery nail polish. Perfect!
I'm all showered and dressed by the time the mail plops onto the mat in the hallway. I flick through the fat, pastel birthday card envelopes, looking for a postcard, a package, anything addressed in rainbow-colored pen in her childish, loopy writing.
There's nothing from Mum.
After school, we pile into the window seat at Dimitri's, Jade and Sara and Sasha and me. We're all schoolbags, stripy ties, and smiles, and Dimitri rolls his eyes as he wanders over to take the order.
"Four Cokes, please," Sasha says, wafting a fiver.
Dimitri pretends to be shocked. Normally, we order two Cokes and four straws between us, and make them last an hour at least. "Four Cokes?" he asks. "What's the special occasion?"
"Dizzy's birthday," Sara tells him. "Twelve today!"
Dimitri mutters something about hopeless kids, and when the Cokes arrive I laugh, because he's loaded mine up with cocktail umbrellas, ice, lemon slices, even a huge strawberry, all floating in a sea of brown fizz.
We sip and chat and roll up our white shirtsleeves to compare tans, because it's June eighteenth and summer is trying hard to burn through the gray city clouds. Sara and I are milk-bottle white, Sasha's freckly, and Jade is a gorgeous golden brown, but then that doesn't count, because she always is. We decide to ditch our school trousers in favor of little skirts and ankle socks.
"How is anyone meant to look cool in school uniform?" Jade demands, dragging off her tie. "Green tie with puke-yellow stripes? Attractive. Very."
"Although," Sasha says, grabbing the stripy tie from Jade, "from time to time, they do come in handy...."
I don't see it coming.
There's a quick scuffle, and Sasha has the tie over my eyes. Everything goes black, and there's a hand muffling my squeals and more dragging me upright. My so-called friends twirl me round three times, then there's a firm shove in the small of my back and I'm sitting again, tearing at the blindfold as they start singing "Happy Birthday."
The tie slides down my face and I look up, pink-cheeked. Dimitri is there, carrying four slices of hot chocolate-fudge cake with ice cream scoops. The largest slice is stiff with pink birthday candles, flickering dangerously. There are even a few stuck in the vanilla ice cream.
I laugh and blush and blow out the candles and the cafe breaks into a sudden round of applause. I love my friends.
"You've got chocolate on your nose," Sasha tells me later, as we mooch along the street. We've linked arms and the four of us fill the pavement, high on fudge cake and the luxury of having a whole Coke each.
"I love my bracelet," I tell her with feeling, jangling my wrist while she dabs at my nose with a tissue. "And the CD, and the posters." I beam at Sara and Jade.
At the traffic lights, Sara and I wave good-bye to the others and cross over, taking a short cut through the park.
"Any postcards?" she asks quietly as we pick our way across the grass. "Anything from . . ."
"Mum? No, not yet."
"Well, that one from Morocco that time, you said that was late."
"Three weeks," I told her. "I was only eight. I watched for the postman every morning."
"I know," Sara sighs.
I also cried myself to sleep every night, stopped eating, stopped talking. Then the postcard came and everything was okay again. Dad said the postal service in North Africa was probably a bit iffy. It definitely wasn't Mum's fault. Not like she'd forgotten or anything.
"Anyway," I say brightly, "Dad's ordering in a pizza. Three cheese and mushroom. And I can have MTV on all night if I like."
We leave the park, cross the street. Sara lives in a red brick house halfway along. The garden's stuffed with violently colored flowers and the grass is so short it looks like it's been ironed.
"Coming in for a bit?" she asks.
"Nah. Pizza's calling. Thanks for the posters, Sara, I love them. See you tomorrow."
I turn away. My chirpy mood has disappeared along with Sara. There's a heavy feeling inside my chest, like I just swallowed a small iceberg and not a huge slice of hot chocolate-fudge cake. Suddenly, I feel a whole lot older than twelve.
Our flat is right down at the end of the road, a tall townhouse divided into three apartments. We're in the ground floor one, so we get to use the workshop (which was once a garage) for Dad's studio. I turn into the drive and see a big, grubby van skewed across the driveway, one front wheel squashing a straggly patch of flowers. Mr. Desai from upstairs will have a fit.
It could be someone delivering sacks of clay for Dad, although there's no courier logo on the side. The van is mostly red, with one blue fender and one gray one. One of the back doors is purple, and someone's scrawled "wash me" in the thick grime of its window. Lovely.
I let myself into the flat. Dad's left a pile of cards from the second post on the hall table for me, and I take a deep breath before scanning it quickly.
Nothing with her handwriting.
I open the cards, trying not to feel bad. Twenty quid from Auntie Mel, a card with kittens on it from Mr. Desai, a book token from Mrs. Coulter, my old babysitter. If they can remember, why can't she?
I can hear Dad talking to someone in the living room. I hope it's not Lucy, his girlfriend. She's okay, and I'm getting used to her, but I don't really want to share my birthday with her. Birthdays are for me and Dad.
"Home, Dad," I shout, scooping up my mail and pushing open the bedroom door. My new guitar sits proudly on the quilt. Next to it is a little blue camera from Lucy. She let me open it last night, showed me how to load the film, how to work the flash and the little zoom lens. Cool.
I dump my backpack and pull a T-shirt and jeans from the drawer.
"Dizzy?" Dad shouts back. "Can you come through here a minute?"
I drag off my tie and wander through. It's not Lucy. Lucy's young and smiley with fair, wavy hair. She wears wafty, trendy tops with fluted sleeves, and hipsters with embroidery on them. She wears toffee-colored lipstick and smudgy eye shadow, and she smells of lime-flavored shower gel.
This woman is older, small and tanned with smiley wrinkles and hennaed hair so short it's practically shaven. She has about a million earrings, all in the same ear, as well as a stud through her right eyebrow. She's wearing weird stripy trousers that are baggy at the top and tight around the ankles, and a faded tank top with no bra underneath. Yeuchhh.
I can tell without asking that she's the owner of the patchwork van, but I can't work out why she's staring so hard at me.
"Dizzy, hi," she grins.
"Hi," I mutter, looking at Dad for clues.
He just stares back, looking shocked and scared and flustered. He's still in his studio clothes, his jeans all streaked with clay, his hands and arms still stained reddish-brown.
"Happy birthday," she says.
I still don't get it.
"I can't believe how much you've grown," she says. "How beautiful you are. I can't believe this is really happening...."
My mouth feels suddenly dry, and the floor seems to shift under my feet. I look at the tanned, smiley face with the shiny blue eyes and the glint of gold studs. I take a deep breath in, frowning.
"Hello, Mum," I say.
What made you decide to write this book?
CC: I had wanted to write a children's/teen book forever, just about, but usually ran out of steam after three chapters and stuffed the story in the back of a drawer. With Dizzy, I wanted to write about the whole traveller and festival scene in the UK, and I was also determined to get this one finished. I chipped away at it, 1000 or so words at a time, until the story took over, and there was no going back!
Dizzy's mother lives her life as traveller, or somewhat of a gypsy. Can you explain the traveller life briefly for those unfamiliar with the term?
CC: A new-age traveller is kind of a cross between a punk and a hippy, a modern-day gypsy. Travellers might live in tepees, like Zak in the story, or in rickety old vans/trucks like the patchwork van. In the summer, they travel from one festival to the next, never staying in one place for very long. Some festivals are big, organized music festivals like Glastonbury or Womad, and others are much smaller. They might have a theme, perhaps to do with saving the earth or replanting trees, or could just be about having fun.
In the winter, when the festival season is over, travellers might rent a cottage in the country and get temporary work to tide them over. Others travel abroad, visiting places like Spain, Morocco, India or Nepal. Some stick to their simple lifestyle in tepees or vans, moving on from time to time, and in a British winter this can be quite tough.
How do you know so much about this lifestyle? Have you spent time as a traveller yourself?
CC: No -- but I've considered it! The festival lifestyle is so colorful and exciting, and maybe a bit magical, too. It's a hard life, though, and I was happy to watch from the sidelines rather than get too involved. I have had some very good friends who lived that lifestyle, and although I envy them that freedom, I know it's not for me.
While Dizzy's situation is a bit unusual, the book touches on a topic many children can relate to: the single parent home. Was this a conscious choice on your part?
CC: It wasn't a calculated plan -- I wanted to write about a girl who disappeared almost without trace into that whole traveller world, and this seemed the best way to do it. It seemed quite logical that Dizzy's parents might have different ideas on raising kids, and that they might split up because of this. So many kids these days live with a single parent or with stepfamilies, though, that I thought they'd be able to identify with Dizzy.
You write an advice page for a British teen magazine, how does that type of writing differ from fiction writing?
CC: Writing the column for Shout is totally different from writing fiction! On the problem page, I need to fit in as much advice/information as possible into just two short paragraphs, as well as convince the reader to act on my advice. There's no room for imagination or daydreaming -- some of the problems are quite serious and upsetting. If I'm not certain of something, I do lots of research and try to find a support group who can offer further help. Growing up can be a tough time, and Shout is the only teen magazine who answers every letter. It helps to know that there's someone out there who cares.
You make your home in Scotland, where the characters in the book travel. How much of your life there informed the book?
CC: Although I didn't name many places in the book, often I had specific places in mind. The site of the Tree People Festival is a real place. It's very isolated, but it did once have a festival, too -- more of a ravey one! The waterfall and the tree with leaves like fingers are all real, and when Finn, Dizzy and Mouse go to town to busk, it seemed natural that they'd go to Ayr, a place I know well. The scenes of Leggit on the beach at Ayr are directly lifted from life -- I walk my own mad lurcher dog there most weekends! One of the things I love most about living in rural Scotland is the wild countryside, and I really wanted to get some of that magic over in the book.
What would you like to tell readers about Dizzy the character and the book?
CC: Dizzy is a book about growing up, about letting go of childhood dreams and facing the reality that parents aren't always perfect. It's about making a family for yourself from the people around you, when the adults who should be looking after you aren't doing a very good job of it. The friendship between Dizzy, Finn, Mouse and Leggit is strong, and central to the book -- they look after each other. Sadly, Mouse doesn't get a happy ending in Dizzy, and lots of kids are asking if I'll write more about him. There's quite a 'Mouse' movement going on out there! Although Dizzy was meant to be a one-off book, I think I will pick up Mouse's story again, perhaps when he is 11 or 12.
Posted July 31, 2010
I have been reading Cassidy's books for a long time! This one is just so grasping that I couldn't put it down to do ANYTHING! Filled with problems that most kids go through all the time! Definatley recommended to anyone!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 7, 2009
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This book is wonderful. I am a younger kid myself and the book really speaks to you. I know how it feels when parents divorce but i haven't been through what dizzy has been through. She has been through heart ache, misery, self hate and a lot of other things. Cassidy really shows that life isn't some fairytale a lot of ugly things come by and you just have to figure out how to deal. Hopefully younger kids will see the true meaning in cassidy's books.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Cathy Cassidy's books are very well-written; she has a unique type of writing that she uses and no other author has managed to master it. Dizzy is absorbing, interesting; it is a very easy book to get into. The problems in the story just makes it even more amazing! I thoroughly recommend this book!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 19, 2008
Posted July 7, 2008
Cathy Cassidy is one of my favorite authors, and I'm about to read her other books. But I spent most of my time reading this book, which I LOVE I recomend this book to anyone!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 27, 2008
Posted May 18, 2008
Posted January 20, 2008
I read this book in fourth grade and I LOVED it. Now I'm in eighth grade and I love it for all the same reasons. It's exciting and different and sad and happy and... well, amazing, basically. It's about a girl named Dizzy who's parents were hippies when she was born. Her dad abandonded this life style, but her mom couldn't and ran away from home. She comees back on Dizzy's 12th birthday and mysteriously convinces dizzy's uptight dad to let her go to some hippie festivles over the summer. At these festivles, she meets some new people and reconnects with some people she hasn't seen since she was very young. This is such a great book that if I hadn't read it before I'd drop whatever I'm reading right now and read it!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 10, 2007
Posted July 29, 2007
this was the best book i every read n i really dont read that much but this book was the greatest i could not put it down i read it in 3 days!! n i am reading it again i think there should be a sequal!! this book was amazing!! i really got into it n i even cried a little bit!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 3, 2007
Posted February 10, 2007
Posted February 10, 2007
HORRIBLE book. I wasted my time reading this book. It's just.. halatious. I would NOT recommend this to anybody who doesnt want to waste their time and wish they never read this book. Dizzy made me bored to tears. Ew. Sorry Cathy Cassidy, but this was the worst book I've ever read. End of story.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 9, 2006
This book was great near the beginning and the middle, but then , at the last few chapters, everything built up, and fell apart. But, I do recommend this book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 25, 2006
wow. This is my favorite book ever. It isnt especially well written or imaginative but it told a beautiful story that made me cry both times I read it. It really made me see how lucky I am to have a pretty stable family. I definitely think it's worth readingWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 28, 2006
Dizzy is insightful and I find it is very much like the Sharon Creech books. The pages seem to come alive and Cathy's choice of words produces a clear picture in my mind. The character of Dizzy is just like any other young child living with one parent: content with life the way it is, but also confused. That is, she was that way until her mother, Storm, comes and takes her away to experience a different lifestyle than waht she is accustomed to.Then, Dizzy is forced to see things through new eyes and come to terms with her feelings and the truth about her mother's decision to leave many years ago. There are also other twists and turns along the way and many memorable characters such as Finn, Dizzy's humorous and understanding friend who also gives Dizzy her first kiss, and Mouse, Storm's boyfriend's son who becomes like a little brother to Dizzy. All in all, this book is great and I would recommend it to anyone!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 12, 2006
It was a little predictable, but I thought Cathy Cassidy did a great job writing this book! I loved it and would reccomend it to anyone. If you are looking for a book that's interesting and touching, Dizzy is the perfect choice!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 17, 2005
Posted February 3, 2005
Dizzy is an outstanding book for girls in their teens. It makes you laugh and cry, and by the end,, you feel like you were in the book. The words come alive on the pages and dance in your head. Dizzy is an unforgettable book that was beautifully written. Catherine Cassidy gets my five-star rating on my favorite book, Dizzy.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 16, 2010
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